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State Sues Company for Allegedly Faxing Unsolicited Advertisements

July 23, 2003|Hilda Munoz | Times Staff Writer

California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer sued an Aliso Viejo-based company Tuesday for allegedly violating federal law by faxing unsolicited advertisements to small businesses, corporations and homes across the country.

The consumer protection lawsuit, filed in San Diego federal court, seeks $15 million in penalties from Fax.com.

"You probably can't count the number of times this business and their owners and operators have violated the state and federal law," Lockyer said.

Federal law prohibits businesses from faxing advertisements without the recipient's permission. Previously, state law allowed unsolicited faxes to be sent as long as they came with an 800 number where consumers could call and request to be removed from the distribution list.

But a state law enacted in 2002 placed California under federal statute barring all unwanted faxes, Lockyer said.

Counting the cost of paper and toner, Lockyer estimated that junk fax recipients pay 2 cents per page. The price adds up to millions of dollars a year, he said.

"Meanwhile the business would charge advertising customers anywhere from a nickel to 12 cents for every one of those faxes sent out," said Lockyer. "They were bringing in millions of dollars in this illegal way."

The company did not return calls seeking comment.

"Legitimate advertising has a place in any market," said Thomas Papageorge, head deputy district attorney in charge of consumer protection. "However, this is not a legitimate marketing device; it robs you of your privacy and forces you to pay for that."

Lockyer said anyone who has received an unwanted fax advertisement should report it to the public inquiry unit at the attorney general's office.

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